Years ago, I had a collaborative divorce couple who were particularly progressive in their thinking. They wanted to know the best way to tell their family and friends about their divorce in a way that would prevent their family and friends from feeling that they needed to take sides or criticize one or the other of them. It is only natural to feel the need to support your family and friends when they are in any bad situation, including a divorce, but sadly, somewhere bad in our tribal days it was ingrained in us that “the enemy of my friend is my enemy.” Hopefully, we have and can continue to evolve being that very primal thinking.
We, as their collaborative divorce team (the clients’ lawyers, communications facilitator, and financial professional) helped them draft a letter (not unlike one of those Christmas letters we all receive) to their family and friends stating that they have reached this decision together, that they do not want their family and friends to take sides, that they do not want their family and friends to feel like they can only continue to be in relationship with one of them, and in fact they want all of those family and friends to continue to be in relationship with both of them.
They specifically requested that their family and friends not say anything unkind about their soon-to-be-ex to anyone, especially in front of or to their (the couple’s) children–in other words, using the vernacular–please do not TRASH TALK my soon-to-be ex-spouse. The couple delivered this letter to their family members and friends, and the response they got back was surprisingly refreshing–everyone they heard back from thanked them for giving them permission NOT to feel that they should take sides; it was almost like their family and friends breathed a collective sigh of relief. In the Chicago Tribune, therapeutic writing teach Diane Sherry Case teaches her divorcing people how to write a script so that when someone approaches them about their divorce, they have a little recording in their head that they can play, so to speak, that they have already thought through how they would want to handle the discussion.
Most people don’t have to make as widespread an announcement as this couple recently did in People magazine, and as further discussed in Women’s Health, but the spirit of this idea is the same–when you have to go through the pain of divorce, keep your private family business to yourself and give your family (especially your children) and friends the GIFT of continuing to love you both. If you or you know someone who is divorcing, please consider a collaborative divorce, where the case is settled outside of Court and the details of the clients’ divorce are kept private.